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3D Printed Graphene

Graphene has been proven to be one of earth’s strongest materials and because of its additional significant properties, specifically high electric and thermal conductivity, graphene applications are actively sought by a variety of industries, from aerospace to battery manufacturing. Graphene has been limited because it readily forms 2D basic structures or sheets that are not easily converted to 3D forms. 3D graphene structures have eluded researchers but now scientists from Virginia Tech University and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have been working to produce 3D graphene structures using 3D Printing.

 Photo by Virginia Tech, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

“We have been able to achieve 3D graphene aerogels and foams with arbitrary form factors and 3D features,” Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng, an assistant professor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, told Digital Trends. “We formulated and printed light-sensitive graphene precursors that is compatible with a desktop SLA printer. This opens up freedom to realize 3D graphene with any topology co-optimized mechanical properties, hierarchical pore sizes, surface areas, [and] conductivities for a host array of applications.”

“Pristine graphene is one of the stiffest materials ever measured, but 3D graphene foams experience such massive degradation in mechanical properties that they are worse than polymer foams at low densities,” notes Hensleigh and other authors of a paper explaining the technique published in the journal MaterialHorizons. The breakthrough came in high resolution 3D printing allowing graphene to be designed into any shape with a very high resolution. The new technique is compatible with a desktop SLA printer and achieves an order-of-magnitude finer resolution and far more intricate structures than previous methods.

Zoomed-in scanning electron microscope picture of a graphene octet-truss at a resolution of 10 micrometers. Image: Virginia Tech

Marcus Worsley, an LLNL researcher on the project, says: “Recent work has shown some performance improvements for simple 3D-printed structures, but more complex, computer-generated architectures are predicted to be vastly superior. These gains should translate to devices that are more powerful, efficient, and longer lasting. This is the major thrust of our current and future work in this area.”

For additional info: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2018/08/engineering-3dprinted-graphene.html


This is an emerging innovative development that could have a significant impact on a broad spectrum of future materials applications. Is it a paradigm change? Not yet but the potential is definitively there.

What do you think?